The ‘Mars 2020’ mission lands on Mars this Thursday intending to land NASA’s fifth rover, the ‘Perseverance’, in the Martian domains and finding the answer to the question of whether life is exclusive to Earth. After a journey of almost 500 million kilometers, the engineers of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are busy in the final preparations of what is the “most ambitious rover mission to date” of the US agency, and that will live one of its high points when landing on the Jezero crater around 9.55 pm (Spanish time) if all goes according to plan. But first, it will be necessary to overcome the famous “seven minutes of terror” in which the probe will have to operate autonomously, due to the delay in communications between Mars and Earth. This is the minute by minute that NASA has prepared to complete the most precise and risky landing on the red planet to date,
Scheduled landing time.
The live broadcast -which, for the first time in NASA’s history, will also be broadcast in Spanish- will begin at 2:30 pm EST (8:30 pm Local time) on February 18, and can be followed online throughout the world. From this point on, the engineers have come up with a rough schedule in which the key maneuvers will occur. Cruise stage detachment: the part of the ship that has been flying through space with ‘Perseverance’ and the ‘Ingenuity’ helicopter attached to its ‘belly’, will detach from the entry pod at approximately 3 o’clock: 38 pm EST (9:38 pm Local time). Atmospheric entry: the spacecraft is expected to reach the top of the Martian atmosphere traveling at about 19,500 kilometers per hour just ten minutes later, at 3:48 pm EST (9:48 pm Local time).
Maximum heating point: the friction of the atmosphere will heat the bottom of the probe to temperatures of approximately 2,370 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 1,300 degrees Celsius) at 3:49 pm EST (9:49 pm Local time). The probe will be able to withstand the heat thanks to its heat shield, which will also serve to slow the spacecraft to less than 1,600 km per hour. Parachute deployment: the ship will deploy its parachute at supersonic speed around 3:52 pm EST (9:52 pm Local time). The exact deployment time is based on the new Range Trigger technology, which calculates the distance to the landing target instead of the navigation speed, as was done with Curiosity.
Separation of the heat shield: the lower protective part of the capsule will come off about 20 seconds after the deployment of the parachute. This allows the rover to use radar to determine how far it is from the ground and to use its terrain-related navigation technology to find a safe landing site in the Jezero crater. Rear Shell Separation: The rear half of the capsule that is attached to the parachute will separate from the rover and its ‘jetpack’ (known as the descent stage) at 3:54 pm EST (9:54 pm Local time). The jetpack will use retro rockets to slow down and fly to the landing site. Landing: the spacecraft descent stage, using the aerial crane maneuver, will lower the rover to the surface with nylon straps. The rover is expected to land on the surface of Mars at the speed of human walking (approximately 2.7 kilometers per hour) around 3:55 p.m. EST (9:55 p.m. Local time), at which time it will also cut the strings.
The teams on the ground will receive the signal that everything has gone well with eleven minutes of delay. A series of parameters will confirm the success and shortly after a low-resolution image will arrive. Also, for the first time, the sounds of the landing will be recorded,Possible setbacks. From NASA they warn that several factors could affect the established schedule, including the properties of the Martian atmosphere, which are difficult to predict until the spacecraft flies through it. Mission controllers may also not be able to confirm these milestones at the right time due to the complexity of deep-space communications. “The flow of detailed engineering data (called telemetry) in near real-time is based on a new type of relay capability added last year to NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO),” they say from the US space agency. Engineers expect the information to return to Earth directly via NASA’s Deep Space Network and two other ground antennas until shortly before landing.
It is important to emphasize that the rover can land safely on Mars without communication with Earth: “’Perseverance’ has pre-programmed landing instructions and great autonomy. Additional communication events are planned in the hours and days after landing.
Once on the surface, one of Perseverance’s first activities will be to take pictures of his new home and transmit them to Earth. Over the next several days, engineers will also check the status of the rover and unfold the remote sensing mast (also known as its “head”) so you can take more pictures.
However, it will take the team more than a month to thoroughly inspect the rover and load new flight software to prepare for the search for ancient life on Mars. During the same period, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter team will ensure that their small but powerful robot is prepared for the first attempt at controlled and powered aerodynamic flight on another planet. “The ‘Ingenuity’ team will be side by side with the ‘Perseverance’ team on the day of landing,” says MiMi Aung, project manager for ‘Ingenuity’ at JPL. “We cannot wait until the rover and helicopter are safely on the surface of Mars and ready for action.”